Wind is in good supply in Oklahoma, leading to a “wind boom” in Western Oklahoma. Congressman Frank Lucas supports what he calls the “all of the above” policy on energy sources, and recognizes and supports the importance
of wind energy development in the third Congressional District, which covers the northwestern two thirds of Oklahoma. The wind industry has taken off in Oklahoma because the state has enacted policies, such as a five-year property tax exemption and a production tax credit, that are more conducive and supportive of the wind industry than neighboring states. Until now.
Though there is plenty of wind in Eastern Oklahoma, the political climate is not good for wind development there. Senate Bill 1440, by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman , passed last week by a vote of 32-8 and is headed to the House for consideration. The bill puts a three-year moratorium on development of wind energy East of Interstate 35, which essentially prohibits any further wind development in the eastern half of the state for three years. The rationale was that the issue “needed more study”. But, for three years?
It should take about 30 minutes to discover the advantages of developing wind energy in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has spent more than a decade developing wind energy and there are now 27 windfarms in Oklahoma. Mr. Bingham and his supporters should be well aware of them, or they could just study the report compiled by independent consulting firm Economic Impact Group. The report shows that wind industry construction and operating activities from 2003 to 2012 in Oklahoma have created:
- More than $1 billion in Oklahoma production of goods and services
- More than $340 million in labor income
- More than 1,600 direct full-time jobs
- More than 4,000 total jobs including manufacturing and support industries
- More than $1.8 billion of economic activity during the first 20 year contracts
- More than $43 billion in property taxes annually after the tax abatement.
- More than $22 million annually to landowners and $15 million in wages to local workers
Other than ignoring the contribution of wind energy to economic development in Oklahoma, there are a number of other things wrong with SB 1440. It infringes on property rights as it tells landowners how they cannot use their land, if they live on the wrong side of I-35. It is probably unconstitutional, as there is really no rationale for such an arbitrary division of who can and cannot develop wind energy. It singles out and treats wind energy differently from other energy industries. That was pointed out by Senate Floor Leader Mike Schulz, R-Altus, who voted against the bill, “We have been writing oil and gas legislation and regulations for over 100 years and continue to do so,” he said, “I don’t anticipate anything different in the wind industry.”
The United States has the goals of achieving energy independence, reducing carbon emissions, and and cutting air pollution. However, a number of politicians have been working against those goals by trying to hinder the development of alternate energy sources. There is nothing that hinders investments more than uncertainties in the investment climate. At one time, Tulsa was the home of DMI industries, a wind turbine tower manufacturer employing 167 people. The plant was closed in 2012 because of changes in the subsidy program that created uncertainty in the funding for the business. Even if SB1440 doesn’t pass, it will have a chilling effect on investments, as even the possibility of a ban creates uncertainties that discourage investors. SB1440 was designed to slow the development of wind energy in Oklahoma. Mr. Brian Bingman and his supporters are clearly not acting in Oklahoma’s best interest.
Note added on 07/10/2014: SB 1440 fail to pass this past legislative session, so Mr. Bingman has now requested that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission begin a study of wind farms, hoping the Corporation Commission will recommend legislation to limit the development of wind farms. Mr. Bingman, who has been exposed as a member of ALEC, is following the goals of ALEC, one of which is to stop the development of renewable energy sources.
(c) 2014 J.C. Moore